Snelgrave Testimony (1726)

A Voyage Through the Worlds of the Slave Trade:

Primary Documents

Robert Harms

“Snelgrave Testimony (1726),” Journal of the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations from January 1722-3 to December 1728. London, 1928, pp. 261-62.

Captain Snelgrove, being likewise called and sworn, he said upon examination, that he had been acquainted with the African trade these two and twenty years, and was upon that coast about fifteen months ago. That it is about 250 leagues from Sherboro’ to Ancobra, between which settlements there are several good places of trade, the natives coming off to the ships in canoes. That since the duty of 10 per cent. ceased, the trade has greatly increased in those parts, where the Company have no forts or settlements, and to the windward of all the said settlements, the trade is carried on chiefly by our separate traders, and no others of any foreign nation. That our separate traders have been obstructed by armed canoes from the forts. That he, the said Captain Snelgrove, was at Dicky’s Cove in the year 1723, when there were but five white men of the guard, and that he was informed by the factors, the trade there was so little, the place was not worth keeping, besides that, the water there is not good, and the place incapable of receiving vessels to careen, bigger than long boats. At Seccundee, which is about ten leagues distant from Dicky’s Cove, Captain Snelgrove said, he was on shore in October, 1724, there being then four white men to guard it, and that the trade was so inconsiderable, the Dutch had shut up their factory there on that account. At the same time Commenda, seven leagues distant from Seccundee, had only five men to guard it, which he said, was a place like His Majesty’s powder magazine near Greenwich. That he was at Cape Coast Castle in October, 1724, which is about six leagues from Commenda, in the former of which places he saw but 20 white men, where they had upwards of 40 guns, but not of use. That the Castle was out of repair, and the trade there inconsiderable, being drawn away to Anamaboo, which is not above 5 leagues distant. That ships cannot be protected in the road, and if they come nearer the shore, are in danger of shipwreck, the ground there being foul and rocky. That Phipps’s Tower and Fort Royal, which are appendices to Cape Coast, are usefull against the natives only. That as to Queen Ann’s Point, he was never there, but believed it of no use, Anamaboo being so near it, which last place, he said, he was at in November, 1724. That it is a neutral port. That the Company’s fort was fallen down, and that the natives would never permit them to repair it. That he was at Tantumquerry, (a small settlement 6 leagues from Anamaboo), in February, 1722, and saw but two white men to guard it. That it is of no use. That he was at Winnebah, (a settlement about 6 leagues from Tantumquerry), in January, 1722, and saw but 5 men to guard it, and the river near that place is brackish, so that fresh water is very scarce. That in November, 1724, there were five white men at Accra; (distant ten leagues from Winnebah). That the Dutch have likewise another factory within half a gun shot of it, and the Danes another within about a mile, but that all three are not capable of commanding the trade, the far greater part being carryed on at Shado, a free place 7 leagues above them, and at Statia and Labadie, 3 leagues below them. That from Accra to Taquin is about 60 leagues without any settlement between them, except Whidah, but that there are several places of good trade for negroes and elephants’ teeth. That the trade at Whidah is free for all nations, being carried on at the town of Sabee, 7 miles from the sea side, where the English, French, Dutch and Portuguese trade in their houses. That the African Company’s factory here is about 3 miles from the sea side, has a dry ditch with walls made of the earth taken out of it. That he was there in January, 1724-5, and saw but six white men to protect it. That from Taquin to Cape Lopez is about 300 leagues, between which places that is no settlement of any nation, but many places of trade, though other nations than the English are very little concerned therein. That in his opinion the settlements on the coast of Africa are of no protection or service to the trade in general, but have been an obstruction to himself and others. That ships of war will be the only proper and effectual protection to the trade, particularly against pirates. Captain Snelgrove being particularly asked, whether he had ever traded with the Dutch on the coast of Africa, he said, he had often done it with them and the natives near the Dutch settlements, and once with the Dutch General himself. That the Dutch, having fewer plantations in America than we have, do not regard slaves so much. That there are other places where a free trade is carryed on in Africa besides Anamaboo, and the natives often come along the coast to the places where shipping arrive. That in conversation with the General for the Dutch at the Mine, the said General complained that their forts were burthensome, and if the English Company were inclined to make the Dutch a present of their forts, he would not advise the Dutch to accept them, though he owned the Dutch had given thirty thousand florins, or about three thousand pounds sterling, for Cape Three Points and a fort at Arguin. But upon further examination, he said, that any nation, which had not yet traded to Africa, instancing the people of Ostend, might send their ships and trade there without being hindered by any forts of what nation soever. Captain Snelgrove being asked, if, besides the white men, which he said were at Dicky’s Cove, there were not several blacks, and whether there might not be more white men there than he saw. He said, there were four or five blacks, and it might be more, which he did not see; and did not deny but they might be of service in defending the place, but said, the white men were principally to be depended upon, and as to the number of the latter, he said he did not believe there were more than he saw, because the chiefs at each settlement always make the best shew they can of white people when they receive any stranger on shore. Mr. Wills then asking Captain Snelgrove whether the Dutch could not hinder any ships or traders within the reach of the guns of their forts and if forts and settlements were not of service, for what reason he thought the Dutch gave the value of three thousand pounds for Cape Three Points and Arguin, and were at expense upon other forts. He said, as to the first, that he believed they might hinder any other ships or traders that should come within the reach of their guns. That as to the purchase made by the Dutch, of Cape Three Points and Arguin, it was about the year 1720, in the Bubbling time, when pretences were made of mighty advantages from some mines, said to be discovered in those parts. That the Dutch West India Company bought those places of the King of Prussia, though the fort is since fallen into the hands of the natives of Africa, who answered when the Dutch demanded it again, that they might have the materials, but not the place. And the Captain further said, he had been at most of the Dutch settlements, whereof they have about ten at different places, and the greatest part of them in the same ill state of repair as those belonging to the English Company.